Old-fashioned Cauliflower with Onion Sauce

cauliflower with onion sauce in green bowl

Cauliflower is a delightful fall vegetable, so I was pleased when I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Cauliflower with Onion Sauce. This dish contains cauliflower florets smothered with a rich and creamy sauce made with cream and onion puree. It is then topped with lightly toasted bread cubes.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Cauliflower with Onion Sauce
Source: Recipes for Everyday by Janet McKenzie Hill (1919)

Making the sauteed bread cubes brought back warm memories of my mother in law. She often sauteed bread cubes to lightly toast them when making a topping for casseroles or other dishes. I generally go the easier route when making a bread topping, and use fine bread crumbs and skip sauteing them. But I really liked the larger sauteed bread cubes in this dish, and may have to make them again to top other dishes.

I couldn’t bring myself to use Crisco when I sauteed the bread cubes and instead used butter.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Cauliflower

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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2 large onions

1 cup cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 egg yolk, beaten

1 head cauliflower

1 slice bread

1 teaspoon butter

Onion Sauce

Remove outer layer from onions, slice and place in a saucepan. Cover with water, and using high heat bring to a boil.  Reduce and cook until tender about 15 minutes. Drain, then press through a sieve or puree (I used a Foley mill.) Combine onion puree, cream , salt, pepper, and egg yolk in a saucepan. Using medium heat, heat until the sauce thickens and is on the verge of boiling. Remove from heat.

Cauliflower

Cut the florets from the head of cauliflower. Place in a saucepan, and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until tender (about 8 -10 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.

Bread Cubes

Cut bread into 1/2 inch cubes. Melt butter in small skillet using medium heat, add bread crumbs. Gently stir occasionally until lightly browned. Remove from heat.

To Serve

Place cauliflower in serving dish. Pour onion sauce over the cauliflower, then sprinkle with sauteed bread crumbs.

Bianca-Style Leeks

creamed leeks in dish

Leeks are a delightful, often under-utilized vegetable, so when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Bianca-Style Leeks I knew that I had to give it a try.  The mild onion-like flavor of the leeks was accentuated by a delicate chicken broth and cream sauce. This recipe is easy to make, and very tasty. The leeks make a wonderful side dish, and are delightful with beef or pork.

Recipe for Bianca-Style Leeks
Source: Recipes for Everyday by Janet McKenzie Hill (1919)

When I made this recipe, I couldn’t figure out why the leeks needed to be soaked in cold water for half an hour so I skipped that step. I also didn’t cook the leeks as long as called for in the old recipe. A half hour seemed excessive; they were tender after about 15 minutes.  I substituted butter for the Crisco, and made the sauce in a separate pan and then added the leeks – it just seemed easier.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Bianca-style Leeks

  • Servings: 3 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 bunches leeks (about 4 pounds)

water

1/2 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup half and half

Clean and trim the leeks. Cut crosswise the white and light green parts of the leeks into 2-inch pieces.  Place in a saucepan and cover with water; add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using high heat bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until the leeks are tender (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.

In the meantime, in another pan, using medium heat, melt butter; then stir in the flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Gradually, add the chicken broth and half and half while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the white sauce thickens. Add cooked leeks and reheat until the sauce is hot and bubbly while occasionally stirring very gently. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Old-fashioned Scalloped Eggplant

scalloped eggplant in casserole dish

Last week the eggplants at the farmers’ market just seemed to call me. Their beautiful deep purple color, and smooth curves made them aesthetically pleasing. I also knew that eggplants are known for their versatility because they have little flavor of their own, but rather absorb the flavors of the foods and spices that they are cooked with.

Once I had purchased an eggplant, I had a new challenge – finding a hundred-year-old recipe that called for eggplant.

After browsing through old magazines and cookbooks, I think that I found a winner. Scalloped Eggplant is made by slicing eggplant, then layering it in a casserole dish with grated cheese, and smothering with tomato sauce. It is then baked in the oven until the eggplant is tender.

The Scalloped Eggplant was delicious, and can be served as either a meatless main dish or a hearty side dish.

Here’s the original recipe:

recipe for scalloped eggplant
Source: American Cookery (October, 1919)

Today eggplant is generally written as one word, but that has not always been the case. Based on the way it was written in this recipe, it was two words a hundred years ago.

I used cheddar cheese when I made this recipe. And, I didn’t sprinkle the layers in the casserole dish with salt because I had previously soaked the eggplant in salt water. There is also salt in the cheese and tomato sauce. Sometimes I think that people in 1919 liked saltier foods than what we do today.

Scalloped Eggplant

  • Servings: 3-5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

I eggplant

1 tablespoon salt

1 quart water

1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

pepper

Peel eggplant and slice it into 1/2 inch slices. In a large bowl, combine the water and salt. Add the eggplant slices. Put a plate or other weight on the eggplant slices to keep them from floating. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse.

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Pour one-fourth of the tomato sauce in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Next put one-third of the eggplant slices in the dish.  Add another fourth of the tomato sauce, then add one-third of the cheese and sprinkle with pepper. Continue layering until all of the ingredients are used, ending with the cheese.

Cover dish and bake in oven for 35 minutes. Remove lid and continue baking until the eggplant is tender (about another 10-20 minutes). Remove from oven and serve.

Old-fashioned Sweet Cucumber Pickle Strips

pint canning jar filled with sweet cucumber pickle strips

There were lots of cucumbers in the refrigerator, and my husband said, “Make sweet pickles,” so I started digging through my 1919 cookbooks for a hundred-year-old sweet pickle recipe. I found one that looked somewhat promising, but it ended up being frustrated because it lacked key information.

Recipe for Sweet Cucumber Pickles
Source: Old Reliable Farm and Home Cookbook

When I read this recipe, I had more questions than answers: How many cucumbers do I need to make this recipe? How do I make a “weak brine”? What would be a good spice combination that would result in tasty pickles?

Not to be deterred, I forged ahead – and googled “weak brine.” I then pulled out some of my other cookbooks and looked at their pickle recipes to get a sense of how many cucumbers might be needed based upon the amount of sugar and vinegar listed in the recipe. I also considered various spice combinations listed in other recipes.

Here’s my stab at fleshing out and modernizing this recipe:

Sweet Cucumber Pickle Strips

  • Servings: approximately 5 pints
  • Difficulty: difficult
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15 pounds large firm cucumbers

3 quarts boiling water

4 cups vinegar

4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon mustard seed

Brine

1 cup salt

8 cups water

Peel cucumbers, then quarter cucumbers by cutting in half lengthwise and then cutting each half in half. Scrape the seeds out of the quarters to create strips.

Put the strips in a crock, or large glass bowl or jar. Cover with the brine.  (Make brine by stirring salt into the water.)  Make sure the strips are submerged in the brine by weighting them down with a plate or other weight. Leave in brine overnight (at least 8 hours), then drain using a colander. Place colander with cucumber strips in sink (if not already in the sink). Scald the cucumber strips by pouring boiling water over them.

In the meantime, make the pickling syrup. Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, and mustard seed in a large kettle. Using medium heat bring to a boil. Add the cucumber strips, and bring back to a boil. Cook until the strips are translucent (about 3-5 minutes).

Pack the strips and syrup into hot pint jars; fill to 1/4 inch of top. Wipe jar rim and put lid on.

Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

The verdict: The pickle strips turned out okay. They were sweet and tangy, and had a texture similar to thinly-sliced bread and butter pickles. They were not as crisp as some other pickles. That said, the next time I make pickles, I’ll probably use a different recipe that provides more detailed instructions.

Old-fashioned Ginger Ale Gelatin Salad

Molded Gelatin Salad with PearsWhen I was a child, there was always lots of food at Labor Day picnics – including multiple gelatin salads. So I was thrilled when I came across a recipe in a 1919 American Cookery magazine for Ginger Ale Gelatin Salad just in time for this long holiday week-end.

The sparkling Ginger Ale Gelatin Salad was sweet and tangy, with a mild lemony undertone. The gelatin can be made with or without fruit.  A hundred years ago canned fruit was often added to gelatin, so I added canned pear halves – though other fruits could be used (or none at all).

The old magazine included a section where readers could ask questions, and this recipe was provided as a response to a request for a Ginger Ale Salad recipe. The reader making the request indicated that the desired recipe should be for a gelatin salad that could be made with or without fruit.

Recipe for Ginger Ale Salad
Source: American Cookery (October, 1919)

When I made the gelatin, I used an entire packet of gelatin since this recipe called for a total of 2 cups of liquid – and the gelatin box indicated that each individual packet should be used with 2 cups of liquid. Since the old recipe called for using 1/4 packet, I assume that gelatin packets were larger back then. I ignored the serving suggestion, and passed on the French or mayonnaise dressing with cocktail sauce. I also did not use small molds – and instead put all the gelatin into one mold. (I used a 1-quart bowl as the mold).

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Ginger Ale Gelatin Salad

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 packet gelatin (0.25 ounce)

1/4 cup cold water

1 3/4 cups ginger ale

grated lemon peel from 1 lemon

fruit (optional) – I used 4 canned pear halves.

Put the water in a bowl; sprinkle the gelatin on the water. Set the bowl in hot water; let sit for 2 minutes, then stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in ginger ale. Put in refrigerator until the gelatin just begins to thicken (about an hour), then remove from refrigerator and stir in grated lemon peel and, if desired, add the fruit.  Pour into bowl or mold, and return to refrigerator. Chill until set.

Old-fashioned Fried Corn

fried corn in bowl with spoon

August is my favorite month when it comes to cooking and eating. Gardens and farmers markets are filled with a bounty of fresh vegetables and fruits at their prime – and, to me, corn on the cob is the quintessential August vegetable.  But, I also am always looking for different ways to serve corn. So I was pleased to find a classic, very easy, hundred-year-old recipe for Fried Corn.

The corn is fried in a little butter, then seasoned with just a bit of cream, salt and pepper. Frying the corn, removes some of the liquid and brings out its natural sweetness Sometimes simple is best.

Here’s the original recipe:

fried corn in bowl
Source: The Old Reliable Farm and Home Cook Book (1919)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fried Corn

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 tablespoon butter

4 ears of corn (about 2 cups after cut off cobs)

1 tablespoon cream

salt and pepper

Cut corn off the cob. Melt butter in a skillet. Add corn then, using medium heat, fry the corn until browned, while stirring frequently (approximately 8-10 minutes). Add cream, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to season; stir. Remove from heat and serve.

Old-fashioned Deviled Tomatoes

Fried tomato slices with deviled egg topping

I recently found a delightful hundred-year-old recipe for Deviled Tomatoes. Tomato slices sautéed in butter are topped with a lively deviled egg mixture.

Here is the original recipe:

recipe for deviled tomatoes
Source: American Cookery (November, 1919)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Deviled Tomatoes

  • Servings: 5 - 7
  • Difficulty: moderate
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4 medium tomatoes, sliced

1/3 cup flour

3 tablespoons butter + 1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

2 teaspoons dried mustard

dash salt

dash cayenne pepper

yolk of 1 hard-boiled egg, mashed

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 tablespoons green pepper, finely chopped

2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

Coat the tomato slices with flour. Then, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet, and sauté the flour-coated tomato slices for two minutes on each slide or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels.

In the meantime, in a small bowl cream together 1 tablespoon butter, powdered sugar, dried mustard, salt, cayenne pepper, and mashed hard-boiled egg yolk. Add vinegar and stir to combine. Stir in green pepper, onion, and parsley. Heat until warm (on stove or in microwave).

To serve, put a heaping teaspoonful of the egg mixture on top of each tomato slice.